WASHINGTON – Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will put Donald Trump’s political brand to the campaign test in 2022 after announcing Monday that she will run for governor of Arkansas.
While Trump faces a second impeachment trial next month, Sanders promoted her time in his White House along with her Arkansas roots in a video declaring her candidacy.
“As your governor, I will not be intimidated by the serious challenges we face,” Sanders said in remarks that ran nearly eight minutes.
Sanders also suggested she would run in part against the Democrats who control Washington, including President Joe Biden and both houses of Congress. She attacked the Democrats as “socialists” – though the vast majority of them are not – and said that “their socialism and cancel culture will not heal America.”
Sanders promoted her work as spokesperson in the Trump White House in the video, which opens with clips from his 2018 Christmas visit with U.S. troops in Iraq.
At one point, Sanders said she was “at the table with President Trump,” dealing with issues that included confronting adversaries like China and North Korea, tax cuts, immigration, and appointing conservative judges.
Sanders did not play much of a role in developing policies during her time in the White House but talked about them with the media. Sanders highlighted her frequent jousts with reporters, many of whom questioned her credibility when explaining Trump’s actions.
During the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Sanders told prosecutors she made a “slip of the tongue” when she said, falsely, that the White House had heard from “countless members of the FBI” that they had lost confidence in Director James Comey before Trump fired him.
In pledging to promote “law and order” in Arkansas, Sanders in her announcement Monday mentioned the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, the attack that triggered Trump’s second impeachment. She did so in connection with other recent episodes of violence, including the 2017 shooting of congressional Republicans on a baseball field.
“This is not who we are as Americans,” she said. “To remain free, we must have law and order and resolve our differences peacefully.”
While Arkansas once generated powerful Democratic politicians, including President Bill Clinton, the Natural State is now solidly Republican. Trump remains popular, winning more than 62% of the vote in last year’s election.
Janine Parry, director of The Arkansas Poll, said Sanders probably enters the 2022 governor’s race as the favorite. Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, noted Sanders is the daughter of a popular state Republican, former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“She’s got name recognition, times two,” Parry said.
To take the governorship, Sanders will first have to win the Republican primary, and that may not be easy. Two state officials – Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge – have already been running for the job.
Current Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, is term-limited.
In her announcement video, Sanders stressed her Arkansas roots after growing up in the state and returning after her years in the White House.
Sanders’ video, which features dramatic music and stern warnings about America’s future, drew mockery from some political opponents.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, deputy White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama, tweeted that she “genuinely thought this was a Saturday Night Live skit for a minute.”